Martin Beard, who played drums for the San Francisco rock band Sopwith Camel, died on Tuesday at the age of 68.
Beard was born in London but moved to San Francisco in 1956. He attended Galileo High School where he played music in a variety of bands and, after graduating, met Norman Mayell who was starting a band with Peter Kraemer, Terry MacNeil and William Sievers.
Sopwith Camel became the second San Francisco band to sign with a national label (Kama Sutra) after the Jefferson Airplane and, in early 1967, released their first single, Hello Hello. The song didn’t have the Bay Area psychedelic sound but, instead, more of a folk-rock style like the Lovin’ Spoonful with which they shared a producer. Nonetheless, the single was the first hit out of the San Francisco rock scene, reaching number 26 in the U.S. and 9 in Canada.
Unfortunately, the members had a lot of internal fighting over their direction and they split before the song went national. An updated version of the group was quickly assembled to record the rest of the songs for their self-titled debut album but, by the time it was released late in the year, it was too late to take advantage of the initial momentum.
Martin went on to play with a number of local bands but never found the same fame that he briefly had in Sopwith Camel. He eventually became an electronics technician in the Silicon Valley.
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